Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Let Your Husband Help You

Recently, blogger and stay-at-home-mom-of-two Kristen was stunned when her post called “Let Your Husband Love You” went viral. Written as a reminder to herself to “suck up your pride, your anger, your frustration, and your crazy” at the end of a hectic day of homemaking and child-wrangling instead of taking it all out on her well-meaning husband, the piece struck a chord with an enormous number of female readers. As a husband to another blogger and stay-at-home-mom-of-two, I think it can serve as a reminder to men as well – of what our wives need but may not be communicating.

Kristen muses that it isn’t fair to resent and reject her husband’s compliments and affection after “[h]e’s been away at work all day... deal[ing] with whatever crap he has to deal with in order to provide for the family that he loves… Even if the last thing you want is to be touched or to hear how amazing you look when you feel insecure and disgusting… He does think you’re pretty,” she reassures. True, and it can be frustrating and confusing for a husband to feel that his sincere compliments are being irritably dismissed, even if he understands why.

“[G]uys are weird,” Kristen wrote. “Once they fall in love with you, there’s nothing you can wear, no amount of weight you can gain, and no lack of makeup that will make them see you any differently.” As unlikely as this may seem to many women, she is right about this too. When my wife feels grungy and unglamorous – which is often, because raising kids is grungy and unglamorous on a daily basis – she cannot fathom how I can still see her as the sexy love of my life. But I do. I can’t speak for all husbands, but I suspect most would agree that if anything, motherhood adds a dimension to a husband’s love and desire for his wife that we couldn’t have known or appreciated before.

Most of the hundreds of comments Kristen received were supportive, but some commenters mistakenly assumed she was suggesting that women repress their feelings, stay at home, be submissive to their husbands, etc. Kristen felt compelled to follow up with a clarification 50% longer than the original post, in which she proudly announced that her view of marriage isantiquated… because I believe husbands and wives play different, separate roles in marriage and family” and those roles are based on “mutual respect and love.” That sound you hear is radical feminist heads exploding all over the country.

Unlike most husbands, I work from home, in close proximity to my wife Anna and our two daughters (ages 3 and 1). So I am keenly aware of how much she does and endures to keep this family going. My sporadic help eases only a fraction of the workload she handles. I’m not suggesting that husbands who work outside the home are oblivious to this or take their wives for granted, only that I witness it firsthand – all day (and night), every day.

Husbands of stay-at-home moms, remember – when you come home from work, whether she takes out her frustration on you or takes Kristen’s advice and bravely sucks it up, either way you’re not seeing the whole picture. Either way, remind yourself of what your wife deals with at home every day (and on into the night, after your work shift is over). Remind yourself that the compliments and affection are not enough.

If your wife is letting you love her, repay her by letting her do something as well. Let her talk to you about her day, problems and all – without offering to fix them. That latter part is almost genetically impossible for men, but that’s where we have to suck it up and hold our tongue. Listen, and then ask what you can do to help take the pressure off. This will mean more to her than any compliment (but don’t slack off on the compliments either – hey, nobody said successful relationships come easily).

Kristen’s post is directed more at women in “antiquated” relationships like her own (and mine), but the advice goes for less conventional couples as well: by all means, let your partner love you, and then let your partner help you.

(This article originally appeared here on Acculturated, 2/13/14)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Celebrities vs. the PC Police

Merit or diversity? That loaded question seems to be at the heart of a few recent controversies involving the entertainment biz.

At the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s Virtuosos Award tribute honoring Jared Leto, among others, an unidentified woman heckled the actor over his portrayal of Rayon, an HIV-positive transgender woman in The Dallas Buyers Club. Leto, frontrunner to win a best supporting actor Oscar, had already picked up the Critics’ Choice, Golden Globe and SAG awards.

These accolades didn’t impress the woman who shouted, “Trans-misogyny does not deserve an award,” to which Leto replied, “What do you mean by that?” The heckler answered, “You don’t deserve an award for portraying a trans-woman, because you’re a man.”

“Because I’m a man, I don’t deserve to play that part?” Leto retorted. “So you would hold a role against someone who happened to be gay or lesbian – they can’t play a straight part?” Acting, after all, is about inhabiting other personae. That’s why they call it “acting.”

Undeterred by logic, the woman repeated her complaint that transgendered characters are always portrayed by straight people (portrayed positively, I might add), who then get awards for it (and then get accused of “trans-misogyny” for it). Leto again responded that by her reasoning, only straight actors can play straight roles.

“You’ve made sure people that are gay, people that aren’t straight, people like the Rayons of the world would never have the opportunity to turn the tables and explore parts of that art,” Leto said to appreciative applause from the audience. Leto and the heckler reportedly had a “cordial conversation” about it afterward, but the heckler had accomplished her goal, which was to bring media attention to Hollywood’s apparent dearth of trans-diversity.

On the racial diversity front, Jerry Seinfeld was irked by an interview question about the predominance of white males in his Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee web series. “People think it’s the census or something,” he responded. “This has gotta represent the actual pie chart of America? Who cares?” Seinfeld expressed little patience for “PC nonsense”: “I have no interest in gender or race or anything like that.” For him, it’s all about, “Are you making us laugh or not?” and it’s “anti-comedy” to focus on any other factor. A Gawker writer claimed that Seinfeld was suggesting that “any comedian who is not a white male is also not funny,” which is simply race-baiting nonsense. Seinfeld said nothing of the sort, but the Diversity Police are always alert for opportunities to smear people.

This came on the heels of another showbiz hubbub, over Saturday Night Live’s six-year absence of black comediennes among its cast, a drought which was resolved with a hurried hire that, considering the public pressure on SNL, felt like a rush to fill a quota.

And there’s the rub: as always with affirmative action or even the appearance of it, everyone loses. No one, including the beneficiary of it, can ever be sure that the position was earned. It spurs resentment on all sides and undermines the fairness that it purports to impose. A gender- and colorblind meritocracy should be the goal – easier said than done, but it’s the only way in which everyone wins.

Besides, the Diversity Police are never satisfied. Early in her career, when she was cast as Selena in a biopic of the popular singer, Jennifer Lopez took tremendous heat because she is Puerto Rican, not Mexican (even though Selena herself was only half-Mexican and born in Texas). Some took this as an horrendous affront, unbelievably. It didn’t matter to the protesters that: 1) Selena’s story was being brought to the big screen, with an all-Latino cast; 2) J-Lo, an actress who could sing and dance and easily resemble Selena, was perfectly qualified for the role; and 3) she’s Latina. It wasn’t like the producers tried to cast Meg Ryan.

Acting and comedy are most compelling when they unite, not divide; when they find the universality in our experience. But a very vocal minority, obsessed with viewing everything through the distorting prisms of gender and race, ends up rigidly stereotyping and limiting everyone, and enforcing a carefully monitored “census,” as Seinfeld put it, at the expense of our shared humanity.

(This article originally appeared here on Acculturated, 2/11/14

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Kravitz, Hoffman, and the Demons Inside Us

Thanks to a blog last week by the always thought-provoking Rod Dreher, I became aware of a touching interview with rocker Lenny Kravitz that was in part about his troubled father’s deathbed conversion to Christianity. The interview is from 2009, and his dad actually passed away in 2005, but the story, in light of another recent passing, is ultimately a timeless one about personal demons and facing our mortality.

Sy Kravitz was apparently a cold, unreligious man who had multiple affairs on Lenny’s mother, The Jeffersons actress Roxie Roker. Lenny’s relationship with his dad was a strained one at best until the final weeks of Sy’s life. Lenny revealed that as he sat with his dad who was dying of cancer, Sy began to have odd visions:

Spiritually, hospitals are very intense places. It’s like death’s doorstep. And he was in his bed one night and he looked at me, and he wasn’t on drugs, and he said to me, “There are these things flying around my bed, and these things crawling on the floor.” I said, “What are you talking about?” This is from my dad. He doesn’t do with any kind of spiritual thing. No heebie-jeebie kind of thing. And he’s, “There’s black-winged things and they’re flying around my bed… the things that are crawling on the ground, they look like they’re rats and they’re not… I see them.”

Lenny, a Christian with a tattoo across his back that reads, “My Heart Belongs to Jesus Christ,” went on to say that Sy “then began having this revelation and he accepted Christ – this is a non-religious Jewish man – and somehow the spirit world opened up to him. Almost like he had spiritually been bound his whole life and now this thing was released.” Whether you believe the vision to be real or the hallucination of a dying man, Lenny nailed it when he described his father’s bondage and freedom in spiritual terms.

Later, his father offered a heartfelt apology to Lenny and his siblings for what he had done and how he had treated them. “What he said to me is that he always wanted to change his life, and he felt there was this thing on his back and he couldn’t get it off. His whole life, he knew inside himself that he wanted to change. But, he said, ‘I couldn’t’” – until he unburdened himself in his final days.

I thought about this in the wake of the accidental death last week of another father in the grip of personal demons, actor and addict Philip Seymour Hoffman. The first reaction of many, myself included, was anger and incomprehension that he indulged his heroin habit and left his three young children fatherless. An interviewer who had a connection with Hoffman over their children wrote poignantly in Entertainment Weekly about the actor’s love for his kids. Then why the hell flirt with such a deadly drug?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Was a Christian Song Wrongly Denied an Oscar Nom?

No sooner had I posted on Acculturated about the surprise “Best Song” Oscar nomination for “Alone Yet Not Alone,” the overtly Christian theme song to a faith-based movie of the same name, than that nomination was rescinded over an allegation that the songwriter had improperly influenced the voting. Such a revocation is so rare in Oscar history, that many are now wondering: was the song unfairly singled out due to anti-Christian bias?

Composer Bruce Broughton, a longtime Academy exec, was stripped of the nomination ostensibly because he emailed some of his fellow members during the nominations voting period, urging them to consider the obscure song. The Academy’s president said that “using one’s position as a former governor and current executive committee member to personally promote one’s own Oscar submission… creates the appearance of an unfair advantage.”

But The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg noted that the Academy didn’t even cite which rule Broughton supposedly violated. Feinberg read one of Broughton’s emails “and saw no evidence that he had ‘thrown his weight around’ as an ex-Academy official”; in fact,

[j]ust about every individual and every studio with any hope of an Oscar nomination or win – including those with far deeper pockets than Broughton and Alone Yet Not Alone’s backers – campaigns for it, usually far more aggressively than did Broughton… [W]as Broughton supposed to sit back and do nothing while his competitors were going all-out with their campaigns? That expectation strikes me as unfair.

In an ironic coincidence on the same day as the announced revocation, Vulture posted a lengthy look at the heavy-handed Oscar campaigning of legendary Miramax co-founder Harvey Weinstein, whose films have raked in over 300 nominations in 25 years “through a mix of big schmoozy events, whisper campaigns, and old-school cold-calling.”

The litany of Weinstein’s guerrilla tactics is jaw-dropping. It includes intense one-on-one lobbying, paying a fleet of veteran Hollywood publicists to schmooze prominent Academy members, hosting star-studded events for his nominees to which Academy members were invited, spending millions on Oscar campaigns (at least $5 million on Shakespeare in Love, for example), perpetrating smear campaigns against his competition, sending for-your-consideration e-mails, and even secretly hiring Obama’s deputy campaign manager to help promote The Silver Linings Playbook. The list goes on and on. In contrast to Weinstein, Broughton’s transgression is microscopically minor.

Some have said, “So what if the nomination was revoked? The song wasn’t that good anyway.” Enough Academy voters begged to differ, but that isn’t the issue. Feinberg didn’t think the song deserved a nom, “but do I think that they deserved to have their Oscar nomination rescinded by the Academy? On the basis of the evidence that the Academy has supplied and in the context of how most contenders campaign for Oscars these days: No, I do not.”

Monday, February 3, 2014

Among the Oscar Noms for Best Song, A Christian Dark Horse

When the Oscar nominations for “Original Song” were announced recently, many were confounded to find, among more typical selections from weighty Oscar-bait like Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and big-budget blockbusters such as Frozen and Despicable Me 2, a quiet little Christian devotional from an obscure, Christian-themed independent film.

Because Alone Yet Not Alone, about two sisters captured by hostile American Indians around 1755, brought in just $134,000 at the box office during its 21-day release, some accused its song (of the same title) of getting an inside track at the Oscars due to the influence of its songwriting pros Bruce Broughton and Dennis Spiegel. The Week magazine called the situation “shady.” Spin and HitFix also questioned the Academy’s choice. The Wire labeled the song “the Year’s Most WTF Oscar Nominee.” Insiders like publicist Ray Costa dismissed notions of a conspiracy and emphasized the song’s uniqueness: “This one was different. It was inspirational and integral to the movie.”

The claws also came out over politically correct concerns that the fact-based story contained what The Wire called “some very (very!) questionable portrayals of Native Americans as savage-like.” threw out a particularly hateful barb: “They give out Oscars for racism now?” Apparently the filmmakers didn’t get the memo that it’s forbidden in Hollywood to depict any non-Christian, non-white culture in a less-than-rosy light, regardless of the historical truth.

“It’s amazing enough that a family-friendly movie with a Christian theme is nominated in any category for an Academy Award,” says the singer of “Alone Yet Not Alone,” Joni Eareckson Tada. “Besides [the hugely successful, pro-Christian Sandra Bullock movie] The Blind Side, which was wonderful, it’s just not the norm.”

Nor is Tada. A 64-year-old devout Christian with no professional training and barely any connection to the entertainment biz, who rarely even goes to the movies, Tada edged out competition from industry powerhouses Coldplay, Taylor Swift, and Lana del Rey. “I’m the least likely candidate to record a song for a movie, I’ll tell you that up front, so it’s amazing,” she says.

Least likely, indeed. Tada, who runs a charitable organization that distributes wheelchairs to kids in developing nations, has been a quadriplegic ever since a swimming accident at 17. Her lung capacity is so weak that her husband needed to push on her diaphragm to enable her to hit the high notes to record the song. “I cannot tell you how suicidal and despaired I was to know that I’d never use my legs and hands again. Suffering is something that either drives you away from God real fast or drives you to Him. I just happen to be one of those people who was driven to Him.”

She got involved with Alone Yet Not Alone when she sang at a Christian broadcaster’s conference in Nashville and reunited with friends who were raising money for the project. Her only prior professional experience was singing on a couple of records of religious hymns. “This is such an out-of-left-field thing. The God of the Bible delights in using ill-equipped, unskilled and untrained people in positions of great influence, everyone from Joseph to David. It’s all to show that it’s not by human prowess or brassiness, but all by God’s design. I don’t know if that’s what he’s doing here, but it’s worth giving pause and considering.”

Of the skeptics, Tada says,

I don’t blame those people. I’d be scratching my head, too… Yes, it’s unusual, but somebody must have liked the song very much. I don’t know how the process works, but I do know nobody twisted arms or pushed their influence… I think that the Academy recognizing this humble, good little song is rather wonderful.

“Alone Yet Not Alone” would seem to be a long shot at winning, and Tada’s questionable ability to perform live at the ceremony doesn’t help the song’s chances. But according to a poll at The Hollywood Reporter – “Which Should Win Best Song?” – a landslide of 79% of voters thus far have chosen Tada’s simple, heartfelt paean to God’s faithful presence. Maybe it’s time for those in Hollywood and the media who are uncomfortable with an unabashedly Christian song from a faith-based movie to get the message that they’re in the minority.

(This article originally appeared here on Acculturated, 1/27/14)